Posted 23rd January 2015 | 3 Comments

Network Rail 'must regain confidence'

A COMMITTEE of MPs has delivered a bleak assessment of Network Rail's management of major engineering work, and also called for more rail investment outside London. The House of Commons Transport Committee said it welcomed record investment committed to the ‘classic’ rail network but warns that Network Rail must also regain the confidence of passengers following recent disruption.

The report, entitled 'Investing in the railway', considers the problems at King's Cross and Paddington just after Boxing Day, when thousands of passengers were affected by overrunning possessions.

It concludes that the overruns were unacceptable, and that Network Rail must have adequate contingency plans. It must also work with Passenger Focus and train operating companies to improve communication with passengers when engineering works fail.

Other conclusions include that In the light of the change of status of Network Rail the ORR must reconsider whether fining a public sector body remains an effective means of control, that greater transparency is essential around rail spending, criteria used to allocate spending should be published and a 'traffic-light' system should indicate the status of each rail investment project.

Louise Ellman, who chairs the Committee, said: “With over 1.5 billion journeys made last year, millions of people rely on a train service to get to work or see family and friends. We welcome the record spending planned for the ‘classic’ rail network, but Treasury statistics demonstrate that for too long this spending has been focused on London. We call for revised — and published — criteria to ensure fairer funding allocations that reflect wider economic and social objectives.

“The chaos faced by passengers over Christmas at King’s Cross and Paddington, and the continuing disruption at London Bridge, are unacceptable. They are also a worrying sign for the capacity of Network Rail to manage multiple, complex engineering projects simultaneously. Network Rail must demonstrate that it can deliver key improvements — such as electrification in the North West and the Great Western Main Line — on time, and while still delivering safe an efficient services for all passengers.

“Reported delays to key infrastructure projects must be addressed by the Department for Transport. If a rail improvement or electrification project is announced for delivery in a set time period, there should be an expectation that it will be delivered on time.”

The report also called for the Government to take responsibility for rolling stock, to address general shortages and ensure there will be sufficient trains to run on newly-electrified lines.

Louise Ellman added: “Ministers must ensure there is sufficient rolling stock - of a decent quality - to run timetabled rail services and maximise the benefits of new infrastructure. Rising numbers of rail passengers have not being matched by investment in new rolling stock, resulting in overcrowding, and passengers unable to board some busy trains.

“The Secretary of State refused to tell us when the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains will be removed from the rail network — in Wales and the South West, as well as the North. We call for a clear commitment to remove Pacers from the rail network by 2020 at the latest.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Steven Antonio, Crawley

    anyone else get tired of having to go into London from jetting into Heathrow, regardless of destination? I wonder if there is scope for a westerly loop to be created off the HeX...or are they already planning it? Its one of the biggest cons going, and may reduce somewhat the capacity problems between Pad and Reading (alongside the extension of use of HSTs that, although refurbished to resemble cattle-class airplanes, are not up to the job with the volume of people).

  • jak jaye, anywhere

    Watched a bit of it on TV Mark Carne was pathetic,no surprise there and all the questions were about the size of NotWorks bonuses,nothing whatever about the continuing scandal of daily 'signalling problems' just pop into any major London Termini Mr Carne for a graphic illustration

  • Martin Walters, Blackwood

    Wales is seeing some major improvements in South Wales, with lines reopening, stations modified, current stations with added platforms, signalling, and doubling of track. However, it's taken too long to get to this stage and there is so much more than needs to be done!

    The Welsh network isn't properly networked together.
    e.g the call for Carmarthen to to Aberystwyth.. better connections on the heart of Wales line. Linking Llandrinod with Newtown, as well as improving current services on the Heart of Wales line.
    ^ Improves access for people working/wanting to work in major cities.. ~ improves access to West Wales universities and opens up a gateway for tourists and holiday makers from South Wales who other wise would/could be put off by travelling times/expenses/journey hassle

    A link between mid and north Wales to create a better connection for people who come from Holyhead, Anglesey, Bangor... and Ferry services to and from Ireland

    Then there is freight.. the Welsh railway was built to move freight! The industries have gone, but there is plenty of potential and land for industries.